Chemical Engineering

Qualification(s) available: PhD

Entry requirements
3 years
Start date
1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October
UK fee
To be confirmed
International fee


Here in the Department of Chemical Engineering, multidisciplinary research addresses the current and future challenges for our society through engineering solutions.

Our Department is a highly active, research-intensive community of around 75 academics, researchers and doctoral students, using our excellent research facilities and producing world-leading research outputs. We have a strong and growing research programme with world-class research activities and facilities, focusing on industry’s and society’s needs. For instance, we're looking at the commercial production of stem cells, disinfection of hospital wards, novel drug delivery methods, advanced fuel cells, nanomaterials and electrocatalysis for electrochemical energy technologies, advanced water treatment, and continuous manufacturing of pharmaceutical products.

Benefiting from the expertise and considerable experience of our staff, our thriving community of postgraduate research students are provided with an intellectually challenging and rewarding experience during their time with us. We attract over £3 million of research income annually and have almost 50 PhD students working on projects of global importance.

We work closely with other university departments in multidisciplinary research, as well as with industry and with researchers in universities worldwide. Our research is split into several key themes, and in recognition of our cutting-edge research expertise, we have recently been selected as a lead partner in the EPSRC/MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Regenerative Medicine.

We have an enterprising culture within the Department through our successful industrial collaborations, spin-out companies and knowledge transfer partnerships. We have close working relationships with major companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food and process industries, including AstraZeneca, BP, British Sugar, Carlsberg, E.ON, Exxon, GlaxoSmithKline, PepsiCo and Unilever to name but a few.

As a research student in our department, you will have the opportunity to not only become an independent researcher but to also create a lasting network of peers. You will be assigned a supervisory team who, together with the Director of Doctoral programmes, will provide strong academic and pastoral support. Training and departmental seminars will help you to develop your skills and you will be expected to present your own research papers. You will also be provided with your own desk and computer in a shared departmental office with access to library, IT and state of the art laboratory facilities.

We have recently refurbished our entire building and all of our new research laboratories are now fully operational. These include themed laboratories for the following areas:

  • energy and environment (two laboratories)
  • formulation (four laboratories for formulation, particles, powders, fluids)
  • crystallisation
  • analysis
  • a new floor containing a suite of four bio-themed laboratories.
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Why you should choose us

Our research

Our research is focused on three multidisciplinary areas: energy and environmental engineering, bioengineering and healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. Our cutting-edge outputs are tackling the global challenges ranging from low carbon clean energy, and stem cell and tissue engineering to green processes for resource recovery and recycling.

Energy and Environmental Engineering

Our research strengths in this area focus on multi-scale engineering solutions. These include:

  • fundamental molecular engineering for achieving breakthroughs in energy and environmental materials
  • electrocatalysis
  • photocatalysis
  • photo-electrochemistry
  • solar engineering
  • advanced oxidation processes
  • cutting-edge technologies development
  • system integration for clean and sustainable energy production
  • emission reduction
  • industrial decarbonisation
  • water/wastewater
  • air treatments coupled with production of renewable energy and recovery of valuable resources.

Some of the specific examples of our achievements include, but are not limited to:

  • the electrocatalysis breakthroughs for low temperature fuel cell applications, sustainable hydrogen production, electrochemical ozone production for water treatment, CO2 electrochemical reduction and advanced oxidation processes
  • development of direct liquid fuel cells for transport, building and mobile applications
  • high-performance electrode materials for lithium ion and metal-air batteries
  • the application of plasma and ozonation technologies for treatment of emerging pollutants in water
  • the application of photo-electro-catalysis for treatment of water/wastewater and indoor air
  • microfluidic system for environmental solute detection, CO2 utilisation, solar fuels, sequestration and monitoring
  • computational modelling of contaminant dispersion in both liquid and gas phases
  • the use of solid waste for generating bioenergy
  • life cycle analysis.

Bioengineering and Healthcare

Our research focus is to undertake world class fundamental and translational research that leverages the latest developments in synthetic biology, genetic engineering and stem cell and tissue engineering. Our aim is to advance the study and application of biological research leading to economically viable, sustainable, useful products and processes, including biopharmaceuticals such as novel antibiotics, cell and gene therapies, vaccines, bioenergy and bioremediation. Our work is highly interdisciplinary and involves both experimental and modelling approaches to deliver scalable and sustainable engineering solutions in fast growing industrial sectors including industrial biotechnology, biopharmaceuticals and cell and gene therapy.

We have extensive facilities, including:

  • bioreactors and advanced automated cell culture platforms for biomanufacturing
  • lab-scale and pilot-scale equipment to support process development for downstream purification
  • state-of-the-art membrane and microfluidic systems for micro- and nano- encapsulation systems
  • equipment for the fabrication of bespoke microfluidic devices, with features ranging from millimetres to tens of microns, using photo-lithography, soft-lithography, laser-cutting and 3D-printing techniques
  • facilities to produce formulated dry powders.

Advanced manufacturing

We have a leading reputation for our expertise in particle technology. In recent years this has evolved into nano- and micro-engineering of particles and materials with regards to their manufacture, formulation and dispersion. Examples include:

  • particulate manufacturing using membrane emulsification or microfluidic platforms
  • optical manipulation and construction of micro-particle based assemblies for compartmentalised chemistry and synthetic biology
  • engineering of nanomaterials and interfaces for electrochemical technologies, such as fuel cells, batteries and electrosynthesis for high value chemicals.

We have expertise in catalytic, separation and purification technologies. Our research covers both fundamental phenomenon and the design and simulation of conventional and new processes, including electro-catalysis, heterogeneous catalysis, adsorption, ion exchange and membrane separation. Applications can range from biotechnology and green processes to energy, resource recovery and recycling. Projects cover a wide range of topics including electrochemical processes for metal recycling and resource recovery, nanofiltration of solvents, applications in fuel purification, ultrafiltration of proteins, and nano-structured adsorbents for blood purification.

Your development

Support from your supervisor

As a research student in the Department of Chemical Engineering, you will be supported by a supervisory team – usually comprising a lead academic member of staff with support from a second colleague (both with complementary expertise in your selected area of research). You will also receive support from the technical team in the laboratory.

Skills and experience

You'll also have the opportunity to not only become an independent researcher but to create a lasting network of peers. Attendance at relevant conferences is encouraged with bursaries for travel made available on a competitive basis. The Department also runs a seminar programme throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to practice presenting your own work and to hear from other experts in your field. We also offer workshops focusing on engineering-specific skills.

Our extensive training provision, supported by the Doctoral College, will also enhance your skills and experience as a researcher. These include Café Academiques, a research conference and the Summer Showcase.

Your future career

Recent graduate destinations include:

  • Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Lecturer
  • Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Lecturer
  • University of Leeds, Lecturer
  • University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar (Pakistan), Assistant Professor
  • Advanced Medical Solutions Ltd, Process Engineer
  • Retroscreen, Research Scientist
  • Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Principal Scientist

Entry requirements

Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours. To learn the equivalent for your country, please choose it from the dropdown below.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

A 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant discipline.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Fees and funding

UK fee

Full-time degree per annum
To be confirmed

International fee

Full-time degree per annum

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

If you can't find an advertised project that fits your interests and experience, you can submit a research proposal to the Department of Chemical Engineering to find a supervisor who will work with you on your project. You can view our list of academic staff on our website or you can email us for guidance.

You research proposal should be a maximum of 500 words and include the aims of your study, a brief literature review, an outline of the proposed research methods, and your preferred member of staff to supervise the project. Further information on preparing your proposal can be found here.

You are strongly recommended to contact us before applying to discuss your topic, availability and funding.

Apply now